Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Night of the Living Dead" - The Making of a Classic

By Sebastian Marders

It's not often that a nightmare turns into a 'dream', but in the case of the movie "Night of the Living Dead", that's exactly what happened. Made in 1968, this black-and-white horror film impacted the genre and fulfilled director George Romero's dream of successfully entering the entertainment industry.

In many ways, this film broke new ground. With a relatively low budget of just over $100,000, and with a gross revenue of $30 million dollars, Romero proved that money doesn't make a movie. Creativity and talent does. The story centered on the cryptic and creepy reappearance of the dead, who reanimated with a taste for human flesh. A small group of people who escaped the initial attacks found each other and were forced to struggle to survive the night in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse. Although the gore was graphic, moviegoers saw something else in this film that made it a classic.

Romero didn't just make a film that had visual appeal; he impacted the culture of the 60s. In this Vietnam War era, Romero included his comments and critiques of American society in the script. Social analysts and historians saw this movie as both subversive and persuasive. His thoughts were brought to the big screen with drama, and his ideas gave people something to think about. Because of this added level of depth and development, in 1999, the Library of Congress deemed "Night of the Living Dead" as a film with historical and cultural significance.

While not the first "zombie apocalypse" type movie, Romero did become the leader in the horror genre. His influence in the industry is evident and his success is envied. His understanding of the public's thirst for the bizarre charted the course for this film, and his insightful commentary on human nature provided the perfect connection to modern audiences.

Ironically, the fact that his film company couldn't raise a large amount of money to shoot this classic film became an asset. With limited funds, each moment and scene became important. They shot the movie in a remote location and basically brought the horror home to that spot. Special effects were put together simply, but made a sensation on the screen. The blood on the bodies was nothing more than Bosco chocolate syrup. The cast wore second-hand clothes, and mortician's wax created the zombie look. The black-and-white film lent a startling realistic effect to the entire production and was even likened to a newsreel.

The gruesome scenes made it difficult to find a distributor for the movie. Although Columbia and American International Pictures showed interest, they also wanted the gore to be cleaned up before release. This was unacceptable to Romero and his crew, because a happily-ever-after ending was not part of their original script. Finally, the Walter Reade Organization agreed to show the uncensored version of the film, and as the saying goes: the rest is history.

"Night of the Living Dead" splashed across movie screens in the United States and internationally, splattering both blood and a disturbingly indisputable commentary on society. This classic resurrects reality with a chilling sense of horror.

Sebastian Marders loves writing about a variety of things and sharing the website that inspires each piece with his readers. If you are a zombie fan, you'll love Daily Zombie. Please visit to be introduced to the most lovable comic strip zombies around.

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